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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Faith vs. Religion

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
This is one of the great questions of our age. Faith vs. Religion. Which one do we need more of? Is there a difference between them? Can you have one without the other?
To me there is a huge difference between the two. We have all met the Sunday School Christians. You know, those Christians who have the religion (i.e. they go to church on Sundays or as little as Christmas and Easter) but don't have the faith that backs that up. They may believe in God but they do not have the faith in Him. And yes there is many Pagans that fall into this category as well. They celebrate the Sabbats, if there is a public ritual, and worship with the best of them but they don't have the deep faith that others have.
So what is faith? I guess that this is the next question to answer and probably the most important next to the question in the title. Faith is the belief in something greater then the sum of yourself. But it goes beyond just belief or dogma, it is the life altering realization that changes our outlook. It is what makes me Wiccan always. I am just not Wiccan at the Sabbats or in other rituals I am a Wiccan in all parts of my life.
So now that we have defined faith, can one have faith without religion? In other words can a atheist have faith? Is belief in a Divine Presence a requirement for faith? For me the answer is yes to the first and no to the second. I have met atheists that have faith in mankind and the spirit of hope that can arise in man. This can be a powerful motivating force.
So yes we can have faith without religion. And we can have religion without faith. But we cannot survive without faith. If you don't agree, look around at the hopelessness and confusion that is the hallmark of our age. Our youth have nothing to believe in and so they have no drive. They are easily led astray by anyone or anything that promises a better future. Without direction the youth cannot lead themselves, much less the country that they are going to inherit, in a productive direction. A direction of growth and new life.
It is not the lack of God in schools that is the problem, contrary to some people's belief, it is lack of faith that our children hold. The push away from organized religion has stripped generations of their faith. And so it is time to bring back faith to our youth.

But what do you do if your family (or yourself) is lacking in the faith department? I mean it is understandable, we live in a stressful, non faith conducive world; so it is easy to do, to fall away from faith and stop living a spiritual life.
Well, there are many things that one can do to both connect with your family and to connect them (and yourselves) to faith.

    * Family Altar
    * Meals together with Prayers
    * Bedtime prayers said together
    * Worshiping in Circle together
    * Acting as living reminders to each other

Some of these are harder to do then others but they all will work to remind each of you to have faith. For space reasons, I personally do not have a family altar up, but it is in my plans for the new year, when I can afford to buy smaller furniture which will clear up room. Yet the idea of a house altar that serves as a focal point for the faith of the family is a very ancient idea.
The best placement for the altar is up to you. But strive to place it somewhere that everyone will see it often. You can decorate it for the different Sabbats and make it a center of your family rituals.
Praying together, whether at meal times or at bedtime or any other time, strengthens the bonds of family with the glue of faith. So do it. Pray together often. And when the occasion arises take the time for all to say thanks to the Gods for all that they have received.
When the children get old enough they should be included in ritual with the family. This serves at least two purposes. The first being of course to increase the bonds of family. And the second being to prepare them for the ritual outside of the home in the public eye.
The last one may be the hardest one and is one that I have borrowed from Christianity. We all "backslide". You know, get tired of the effort and the daily grind. Yet if we have someone at hand to remind us of why we do what we do and to hold us up through the trials our faith can survive and even strengthen. This is really what family is supposed to be for, to increase the strength of the individuals to multiply the strength of the whole family.
So as we come up to Ostara, the time to give thanks for the bounties we have received, why don't we make the resolution to bring our family together in faith? Take a moment to bow your heads in prayer and offer up thanks for all that you as a family have received together. And in the coming year let us all make family our focus, as it should be.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please comment below.

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